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Get Up, Baby!

Cardinals news and opinions from somebody who isn't smart enough to be paid for them.

Published: 2006-01-16T19:23:23


For the RSS users:
A) The new site is up; visit the main page and tell me what you think.

B) With this new site comes a new RSS feed.

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Enjoy! And thanks for the patronage.

Posted by Dan On 12/23/05 At 05:04 AM

Site Update Update
It's coming, I promise. From the front page:

Well then. The spammers have won! The SQL database, when everything was imported and jimmied and otherwise messed with, turned out to be twice the limit allowed by the host. A lot of idiocy and two vaudeville conversations with tech support-folk with accents thicker than Sidney Ponson ("The database?" "Naturally!") later, I'll get a response from on-high about what there is to be done later today.

Speaking of Sparklin' Sid... well, generally, I'd rather not. If everything breaks right he'll be a little above average. If everything doesn't, he's going to be punched in the face by Dave Duncan. The Brian Daubach signing... well, 'taint bad, but he's certainly not The Missing Piece. He's John Mabry, sans history. Up note: he hasn't really been given a chance to flounder in the majors; he wasn't really talented enough to stick as more than a Local Hero and when he left the Bosox it was lights out once his average dropped below .250. He killed the ball in the International League last year, but so did a lot of people.

The thing is: how did Walt miss Mark Bellhorn ($800,000), Rondell White ($3.25M), and Matt Lawton (up to $1.5M and time off to prepare for the Kentucky Derby) ? Bellhorn can hit and stand at second--for the days when Aaron Miles isn't up to fielding and standing in the batter's box--and White and Lawton are still capable corner outfielders, although sometimes Rondell White can't stand. (Your own Sid Ponson joke can go there--I figure I've put enough gags and wordplay in that paragraph.

Posted by Dan On 12/23/05 At 04:15 AM

Love Me Nontender
All the unloved players get outed today, ready to be made some other team's treasure. Some of the interesting players on the table:Wade Miller. Before the 2005 season a blog called The Red Sea Scrolls--it's on the sidebar--started up and provided some nice insights into the Cardinals for a month or two. I bring this up because its last entry for about a year--I was surprised to notice a new entry dated from this November as I went to make sure it was still up--was this one, about Walt's inability to pick up Wade Miller. Another year, another chance to pick up the guy who was, at one time, supposed to be the second half of the Astros' one-two punch. There's almost no risk to making a move on Miller; he cost $1.5M last year, and the only things that have changed in the meantime are he got a year older and his arm underwent another surgery. If he really is toast, if his K rate doesn't get back up to 7.5 K/9 and his BB rate doesn't fall back down, his arm will fall off after a few mediocre starts and you'll be a million dollars in the hole. But if he isn't... well, those are some nice numbers he put up back as a youngster in Houston. Willie Harris... well, this guy is lboros's pet nontender, check out his many and varied thoughts on the guy. When last I saw him his bat was more a theoretical construct than an empirically-proven fact, but he's managed to get on base at a league average clip over 500 at-bats since then. Junior Spivey, your 2002 NL All-Star second baseman. He's played about 120 games in the last two years, and he's been effective in about half of them. Good Junior--we'll leave out 2002 Crazy Junior--will have an OBP around .350 and a slugging percentage around .400. Bad Junior will put up an OBP around .310 and slice his achilles tendon apart in a freak jumprope accident. He's been considered a disappointment since everybody remembers 2002, but--wait for it... he's better than Aaron Miles, and in a bizarre job-sharing arrangement with Hector Luna he might be valuable.Eric Byrnes. Hey! The Cardinals could have both of the 2004 Irrational Exuberance Platoon Outfielders! As lboros notes, it's fitting that he and Bigbie were once traded for each other, because handedness aside they're the same player. Except people like Byrnes's hair. If the Cardinals don't manage to swing a Jocketty Trade for an impact outfielder I wouldn't mind him; he can almost hit well enough to be an effective corner outfielder, and he does a lot of other things well. Josh Fogg... well, you can't say he fell behind Kip Wells in that notorious pilfering of the White Sox, because Kip Wells fell off the same cliff. Needless to say, it turns out that the Pirates didn't make out like bandits as much as they thought they did. No particularly exciting peripherals, no heretofore-untapped value... if a team found itself without a AAAA starter of its own to play swingman I'm sure he'd do, but I don't think he's got Walt particularly atitter. (For what it's worth, Baseball Prospectus once suggested he'd be an effective closer. But then, it might have been in the issue with Josh Phelps on the cover.)Dewon Brazelton, one-time number three draft pick and collossal bust out of Tampa Bay. It's not that he's a great move for the Cardinals, or Memphis--he looks like he has good stuff, but he's proven to be a bit of a headcase and he's got more career walks than strikeouts. But he was also the main chit in the Sean Burroughs deal this offseason, so now the Padres have traded a third baseman under 25 with a little potential for... nothing. Half of your infield for Doug Mirabelli? Yikes.Chad Bradford, famous mostly for his appearance in a book and his almost cartoony submarine delivery, is a poor man's Braden Looper. No, wait--he's an even more extreme version of Looper. The man once held right-handed batters to a .499 OPS, which is Einar territory. Unfortunately, at this point he might as well throw the ball over the fence himself when lefties come to the plate; over the last three years they've dinged him[...]

Quick Hits
Ten minutes or so, and then I need to get sleep. Christmas break does horrible things to an already-tenuous cycle, let me tell you.

It's not like I'd need a lot of time, anyway; not a lot has happened recently. Nomar Garciaparra signed with the Dodgers; first base, $6-10M for one year depending on incentives. JD Drew and Nomar on the same team? I wouldn't drive the team bus into any stiff winds.

I suppose whether this deal was smart for either side is dependent on how much you think a move to first base mitigates his injury concerns. After his return from the Exploded Groin injury he hit .318/.347/.531 for the Cubs. At first base that .878 OPS would put him tenth in the majors among twenty qualified batters, between Nick Johnson and Mike Sweeney (whose high-slugging/mediocre-OBP combination is a much better comp for late-model Garciaparra.) At third base he'd be sixth, between Troy Glaus and Melvin Mora. (In case you still think he could play around the keystone, he'd be fourth among second basemen and third among shortstops.)

Even if the Dodgers end up eating most of the contract, a shot at an .870 OPS is worth $6M so long as Jarrod Washburn is worth $9M. For Nomar, however, an .870 OPS as an immobile (no stolen base attempts or triples and only 12 doubles in 2005) first baseman--just a few cuts above middle of the road production--isn't going to be enough to turn him back into Nomaaah the Magnificent. Not unless he hits five home runs in a playoff game--after which Garciaparra-family friend Brandi Chastain tears her shirt off--or resurrects the WUSA, after which... well, you get the idea. As a third baseman he'd be Scott Rolen or Hank Blalock; as a second baseman he'd be Jeff Kent or Marcus Giles; as a first baseman he'd be... Mike Sweeney or Lyle Overbay. Either he really loves LA, or he doesn't think he can play third or second any more, either. (I, for one, was hoping for the A-Rod to Jeter to Nomaaah infield. They could have grabbed Rey Ordoñez out of the Queens 7-11 and gone back in time to blow a 1998 MLB fan's mind. ("And the Star Wars prequel? A mess, man.") Alas, another dream deferred.)

The other news? As fast as possible: Kaz Ishii is on his way back to Japan, where home plate is easier to find; Brian Fuentes is on his way back to Colorado, 67 saves short of Our Man Jose Jimenez's club record(!); Danny Graves is... well, theoretically he's on his way to Cleveland; Steve Karsay is on the way to an exciting and new trainer's table. lboros has more on the bullpen travelings; Dave Riske and name-buddy Joe Borowski are his latest targets. My namesake closer? Ah... Donnie Moore. One of the few situations in which I think I will allow baseball to defer to another sport.

Posted by Dan On 12/20/05 At 05:26 AM

Cali for MIA
Yes, the offseason weekend is a barren enough landscape that, if I decide to post at all, Carmen Cali can earn a post of his own. The news, as per the omnipresent Matthew Leach, is that Cali's worked on his control in the Dominican League. 20 1/3 innings, 18 K, 4 BB, 0.89 ERA. Perhaps he's the one pitching to D'Angelo Jimenez.

Now, obviously, if he can put up anywhere near a 4.5 K:BB ratio in the spring he'll be putting the fear of LOOGY God in Ricardo Rincon, but I'm not sure what we're waiting for here. In 2004, before his promotion to the big leagues, he had a 2.9 K:BB ratio, with a strikeout an inning, and it just didn't translate to the big leagues; it was an admittedly small sample size, but he looked extremely overmatched. Now he's posting similar numbers, which is a good sign after his ugly 2005, but I'm not sure that he's solved anything. (Bruce Manno, who's quoted in Leach's article, doesn't seem to have seen him pitch, either.)

That's what I want--someone to see him pitch. When he was putting up good numbers in 2004 he was played up like an even-shorter Billy Wagner, complete with a fastball that touched the high-90s. But when he came up, he was lucky to hit 90; I think I saw him hit 94 maybe twice, let alone 97. When you're a guy whose reputation rides on your hard fastball, you need to light up the gun more often than Cal Eldred.

He's been leapfrogged by Tyler Johnson, undoubtedly, but it's that nagging feeling that I haven't actually seen the Carmen Cali everybody was raving about a year and a half ago that keeps me optimistic enough about his future to not chalk him up with the Pedro Borbons of the world. I get the feeling his recurring command problem is a simple one: I wouldn't be throwing straight high-80s fastballs in the strikezone, either, when that's all I've got.

Coincidentally... that's all I've got. If you want more weekend Cardinals bloggery, I highly suggest belly's latest weekend diversion, Quad Cities Scrabble. (She analyzes letter frequency so you don't have to.)

Posted by Dan On 12/17/05 At 04:09 PM

Alphabet Envy
So, who had Kansas City in the Grudzielanek pool? Anybody? Two years, $7 million, which isn't an awful deal but is a little more than I'd pay for a middle infielder in his mid 30s with a good glove and an average bat. This is the kind of deal I would have liked to see the Cardinals make, actually, despite the track record of even better second basemen as they hit this age. But... the Royals? They apparently have stolen the Pirates' playbook, acquiring enough average veterans to remain mediocre. (Although I'm sure Zack Greinke will appreciate the deal.) Or maybe they're just stacking their Word Munchers team--Doug Mientkiewicz was impactless vet number two on the Royals' menu. Does anybody really think that either of the players nicknamed Eyechart will be a valued member of the next good Royals team? Or that there will be a next good Royals team?

But the big news is what's eating USS Mariner. Yes, we complain about signing a reliever to a contract that will, at its peak, pay him $5.5 million. The Mariners are about to sign Jarrod Washburn to a four year deal worth at least $9 million a year. To quote the afore-mentioned Mariner:
{{customtwo}}I am refusing to post the link [to the report that the deal is done pending a physical], because I refuse to believe that this is happening. If I refuse to acknowledge what Derek just called “the worst offseason [he] can remember any team having in recent memory,” it is not real. We can have a fun gathering tomorrow night, and we will all be just soggy with effervescence and good cheer.

I am happy in my happy place.
And you think we have it bad. I have no idea what rationale Mariners GM Bill Bavasi is using for this deal, it's that bizarre. The sabermetric rationale fails , obviously; he's had--charitably--two years justifying that sort of yearly scratch, even in this market, in the last four years. And in all four of those years, bad and good, his peripherals were the definition of mediocrity. So, basically, you're paying a guy $9 million for four years in the hope that he will be extremely lucky every single year. And the traditional argument? Well, he's won more than 11 games... one time in his career. You're paying him more than Brian Giles and Matt Morris and Esteban Loaiza, among others, who all have a better record of success. And why? Because they couldn't get Kevin Millwood.

Regardless of how much you hate the Cardinals front office for sitting on their hands after failing to nab A.J. Burnett this offseason, just be glad they have the sense to do that instead of this. Because I'm not as good as the Mariner guys at going to my happy place, and I really don't think you guys are, either.

Posted by Dan On 12/17/05 At 01:22 AM

Thrown for a... my heart's not in that pun.
Yes indeed, ex-Card Braden Looper, three years, $13.5M. Couldn't spend $3M on a second baseman, but $3.5M for the first year of a deal for a relief pitcher? Come to Papa!

I don't get it, either, but taken in isolation of the Cardinals' inane salary caps it's not a bad deal. A better deal than the two years, $11M Scott Eyre extorted from the Cubbies, so maybe this is one of those contracts that needs to be viewed in terms of the bizarre economic climate in which baseball finds itself. And, really, Eyre isn't a bad reliever to compare Looper with, since the newest Cardinal epitomizes the rare breed of righty specialists people have portmanteau'd into ROOGY.

2005 was his worst season since becoming an effective reliever in 2001, and it wasn't even close--he lost two strikeouts per nine innings, struggled with his control, and went under the knife this September. Even then, these were his numbers against righties: .210/.285/.266. Yikes--you can write your own Aaron Miles joke. Those aren't fluke totals, either, since his three-year splits look pretty much the same. So how did he end up with a 3.94 ERA? Well, let's just say that he and Rincon will be splitting a lot of innings; over the past three years lefties hit .307/.356/.466 against him, and in 2005 that ballooned to .336/.402/.578.

You know how Tony loves his platoon splits--this could be a great acquisition. Are they overpaying? A little, maybe, although what is overpaying this offseason? But if you're going to spend that kind of money on a specialist, it might as well be the one who specializes in getting out the majority of major league hitters. And isn't it nice to hear about the Cardinals overpaying again?

Posted by Dan On 12/15/05 At 10:13 PM

Mueller Time Out
Bill Mueller is not the Cardinals second baseman of the future, and that sound you hear is Jason Marquis exhaling. As it turns out, he never would have been an option, given the Cardinals' bizarre hard cap on second baseman salary--the deal with the Dodgers is reportedly two years for $9.5 million, and apparently that wasn't even the richest offer he got. Mueller would have been a big offensive upgrade, having put up an OBP-heavy OPS of .799 or above for three of the last four years. But on defense... well, he would be a 35-year-old third baseman who's suffered numerous injuries playing second base. He played all of 29 games at the keystone during his stint with the Red Sox, and he didn't much resemble Mazeroski out there. For $10M he isn't a bad option at third base, but if you expect him to play 100 games at second without the double play or Jason Marquis's tire iron taking its toll on his knees it's overpaying a bit.

Javier Vazquez isn't a Cardinal, either, and I'm a little less mellow about that. If the thing holding up the Vazquez/Quentin deal was really money, the Cardinals missed a valuable opportunity to upgrade at two positions. And when you consider that Carlos Quentin would be on a rookie's salary, the Cardinals would really just be paying $5M each for a starter and an outfielder. And that money won't get you Adam Benes and Craig Griffey, nowadays. The Chisox had to give up a solid reliever (former Brewer Luis Vizcaino), an enigmatic starter who may be drawing a Great War pension (Orlando "El Duqué" Hernandez), and one of their best prospects, outfielder Chris Young. Not an awful deal for either side, and seemingly engineered only to put me in a bad mood.

The calm before the hoped-for storm, apparently--the big news is that the Cardinals' current stew of mediocrities is the projected solution to their second base predicament, as per Walt Jocketty. This plan worked in 2004, when Tony Womack, Hector Luna, Bo Hart, Marlon Anderson and Marlo Thomas all battled for the position, but you can't always hope for a random productive season from a member of the Womack class. I'll throw down the gauntlet early, so he has time to prepare: if Aaron Miles puts up a .735 OPS as a starter, I will sponsor his B-Ref page and babysit his children for the rest of my life. Just an incentive.

[More site news: the site design is progressing swimmingly--yeah, swimmingly--and the days of frames and horizontal scrolling and a stolen Mark McGwire picture atop the page will soon be over. Try not to cry too much. Then it's on to the next site project, provided I... er, maintain interest.]

Posted by Dan On 12/14/05 At 10:54 PM

Say it ain't Mo
(First, in uninteresting meta-news: does the comment page look a little better now? Coherent, at least? This is all deck chairs on the Titanic, you understand, but I figure the site might as well function while I work on the new one. I'm still trying to figure out why the page scrolls past the margin in IE, also. If anybody can figure it out before me, tell me about it, because I know I wouldn't bother with a web page if I had to scroll around horizontally every line.)Matt Morris's decade of Cardinalry has come to its sad end, care of a $27M contract from the Giants and their GM--The Old Bones Collector, Brian Sabean. Back a few days ago, when Matt said something about eliminating the Cardinals from contention, I had something pithy all ready to run about it not being the first time he eliminated the Cardinals from contention--but I couldn't do it. I like the guy. He was a great pitcher, and even though he wasn't worth the $9M a year the Giants threw at him he deserved a better going-away present than the lowball offer the Cardinals pitched him. I'm glad he at least won his hundredth game with St. Louis. When you take away the red-and-white-colored glasses he's a guy over 30 with a declining strikeout rate, a bum arm, and the occasional dalliance with bizarre facial hair. He'll probably be a little above average over the life of the deal, and that has value--just not this much. A better bet than Loaiza, though. In Cardinals news--well, apparently Morris is as much a Cardinal as Rincon at this point. No confirmation of the deal so far from either side, a lot of qualifying adjectives and care to use future tense. It'll happen, though, because he's not A.J. Burnett; what, is Toronto going to swoop in and offer him five years?The always-on-the-ball CardNilly reports on the rumors floating around about the Cardinals being interested in former Oriole Jason Johnson. Johnson, most famous as the player profiled in ESPN the Magazine for wearing an insulin pump while pitching, was pretty well regarded in his day. As well regarded as a guy with a career record of 52-86 can be, I mean. He's... well, you know how sometimes I complain that Jeff Suppan is bland? He's the wasabi to Jason Johnson's table salt. But if the Cardinals need to trade Suppan or Marquis for an outfielder, he's a fine, probably cheap guy to plug in for a bunch of league-average innings. He's not going to strike anybody out, he's not going to walk anybody, and he's going to induce some ground balls. The Dave Duncan special!And finally, the Texas Rangers' new GM appears to be on the ball--his most recent acquisition is Phillies starter Vicente Padilla. Padilla was probably on the Cardinals' list, as a non-tendered player-to-be; unless the Rangers get generous and hand the Phillies something of worth for the privelege, it's a nice move for them to make. He would have been more effective with the Cardinals--Padilla was an up-and-comer before Citizen's Bank's Home Run Extravaganza drove him below the league average, and Texas is the most recent iteration of Coors Lite--but the Rangers need pitching like we need optimism. On that note: Brandon H. mentioned in the comments that the Athletics misused Rincon, and that he'll be much more effective with the Cardinals, where Our Man La Russa loves platoons like Roger Ebert loved Platoon. I decided to check it out. Turns out Rincon faced a left-handed batter about 60% of the time last year. Ray King faced a lefty 53% of the time, while Flores actually faced righties more often. So... probably not. But take heart in this: Rincon may have turned righties into Old Frank Thomas--.240/.387/.520--but Ray turned them into Young Frank Thomas. .352/.432/.549. Wow. I remembered it being ugly sometimes, but... that ugly? Good luck in Colorado, Ray. If Jeff Fassero can do it, so can you. Posted by Dan On 12/13/05 At 02:50[...]